Branford Marsalis' high-school musical

Date: 06.12.2009
Publication: Burlington Free
Author: Brent Hallenbeck


I know it was Branford Marsalis’ show tonight at the Flynn Center, but I couldn’t help but focus on his 18-year-old drummer Justin Faulkner after learning about the soon-to-graduate high-schooler at their Meet the Artist session a few hours earlier (see previous blog entry). This is no novelty act - the kid is impressive. He moves deftly from two-handed shuffle to a fuller, funkier beat, and delivered a couple of solos that rocked the house. When Marsalis wasn’t playing his saxophone and stood behind his three fellow musicians to watch and listen (which was often - he relishes sharing the load) he would bob his head to the rhythm and in approval of what Faulkner, pianist Joey Calderazzo and bass player Eric Revis were doing (Calderazzo, by the way, had a gorgeous piano solo on a beautiful tune he wrote called “The Blossom of Parting”; you can see all four band members in this fine photo from tonight by Free Press staffer Glenn Russell).

I looked for quibbles with Faulkner’s playing and, aside from one moment when I thought he was a little loud on the cymbals during one of Revis’ solos, I couldn’t find anything. The crowd loved his performance, too. At one point after one of Faulkner’s shining moments, a guy in the crowd yelled “Your drummer is awesome!” Marsalis wouldn’t have it. “His head is big enough,” he said to the crowd’s laughter.

Marsalis, known for his tough love, was more willing to say good things about the other high-schoolers who played tonight, the Vermont All State Jazz Ensemble. The first thing he talked about when he came on stage after the opening act was how impressed he was that they tackled a Duke Ellington number, “Such Sweet Thunder.” “That was cool. I was surprised,” Marsalis said, noting that when he was in high school 30 or so years ago the students were playing popular music like the theme from “Rocky” and Chuck Mangione’s “Feels So Good.”

Submitted by Ben on June 12th, 2009 — 12:00am

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